Bismarck

 

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Operational History
Construction
16 November 1935 The building contract was placed with the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, as New Construction "F". It was Construction No. BV 509 at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard.
1 July 1936 The keel was laid and the construction took place on Slipway 9.
14 February 1939 Bismarck was launched. Christened by Dorothea von Loewenfeld, granddaughter of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Middle of April 1940 The first members of the crew came aboard Bismarck.
24 August 1940 Bismarck was commissioned and placed under the command of Kapitän zur See (Captain) Ernst Lindemann.
Sea Trials and Final Outfitting
15 September 1940 Bismarck left Hamburg for the first time and sailed towards the Baltic to conduct trials.
16 - 17 September 1940 Bismarck passed through the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal (channel).
17 September 1940 Bismarck arrived at Scheerhafen (Kiel).
28 September 1940 Bismarck left Scheerhafen (Kiel) and, under the escort of Sperrbrecher 13, headed for Arkona (on the island of Rügen). Later that day Bismarck arrived, unescorted, at Gotenhafen (Gdynia).
October - November 1940 Bismarck conducted trials in the Baltic.
5 December 1940 Bismarck left the Baltic (island of Rügen) escorted by Sperrbrecher 6 and sailed to Kiel, on her way back to Hamburg to complete her outfitting at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard.
7 - 8 December 1940 Bismarck passed through the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal.
9 December 1940 Bismarck arrived at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg.
24 January 1941 The final work on Bismarck was completed and she was ready to sail again. However a sunken ore ship blocked the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal, which meant that Bismarck had to stay in Hamburg until 6 March 1941. While Bismarck waited in Hamburg she conducted training and battle drills in the harbour of Hamburg.
6 March 1941 Bismarck was now able to pass through the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal and left the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg and sailed towards the Baltic.
7 - 8 March 1941 Bismarck passed through the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal for the last time.
8 March 1941 Bismarck arrived at Scheerhafen (Kiel).
8 - 17 March 1941 Bismarck embarked supplies at Scheerhafen (Kiel), ammunition, fuel, water, two Arado 196 aircraft. Striped camouflage paint was added. The ship was now fully equipped.
17 March 1941 Bismarck left Scheerhafen (Kiel) and arrived at Gotenhafen (Gdynia).
18 March-April 1941 Bismarck conducted trials in the Baltic.
5 May 1941 Adolf Hitler visited the Bismarck together with Admiral Günther Lütjens, and other personalities. Hitler stayed aboard for four hours.
12 May 1941 Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet Staff embarked the ship.
13 May 1941 Bismarck made refueling exercises at sea with Prinz Eugen.
14 May 1941 Bismarck made exercises at sea with the light cruiser Leipzig.
Sunday 18 May 1941 (Operation "Rheinübung")
Between 11:12 and 11:15 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen left their berths in Gotenhafen (Gdynia) and anchored in the roadstead.
11:30 Operation "Rheinübung" officially began.
Afternoon Bismarck weighed anchor and made manoeuvre with Tirpitz near the coast.
Evening Bismarck and Prinz Eugen anchored in Gotenhafen (Gdynia) roadstead.
Monday 19 May 1941
About 02:00 Bismarck weighed anchor. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen made separate cruise westward. Made a subsequent meeting at Cape Arkona (Rügen) and cruise on to the Great Belt.
Tuesday 20 May 1941
About 02:00 Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, and three destroyers Z-10, Z-16 and Z-23 passed through the Great Belt.
13:00 German air security. The Swedish flight-deck cruiser Gotland (Captain Ågren) was sighted to the east. Gotland reported sighting Bismarck passing through the Kattegat.
Between 14:00 and 18:00 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were sighted or observed by numerous merchant ships and fishing boats.
Wednesday 21 May 1941
08:00 - 09:00 Bismarck, Prinz Eugen and the destroyers entered Korsfjord near Bergen.
09:14 Prinz Eugen passed through the Korsfjord and anchored with the destroyers north of Bergen (refuelled in Kalvanes Bay).
11:00 Bismarck anchored in the Grimstadfjord and was not refueled. Coastal Command "Spitfire" planes took off on reconnaissance flights.
13:15 British Coastal Command "Spitfire" (Observer Flight Lieutenant Suckling) sighted and photographed Bismarck.
20:00 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen left the Korsfjord undiscovered, along with the three destroyers, northward from Kalvanes Bay at cruising speed.
23:00 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen left the group (dropping the pilot) under Me 110 air protection.
Thursday 22 May 1941
05:00 At the latitude of Trondheim the destroyers left the group which was now led by the Bismarck, course 0º.
About 12:00 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen at cruising speed, 24 knots. Position about 65 degrees 53 minutes north, 03 degrees, 38 minutes east.
About 13:00 Hazy, rainy weather (limited visibility) with soft south winds.
Friday 23 May 1941
12:00 Position approximately 67 degrees 28 minutes north, 19 degrees 28 minutes west. Average speed 24 knots.
18:21 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen reached the ice limit.
19:22 Bismarck sighted Suffolk. Suffolk reported Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Straits.
About 20:30 Bismarck sighted Norfolk in the fog and fired 5 heavy artillery salvos. No hits scored. The forward radar set on Bismarck was disabled. Shortly after the Prinz Eugen passed the Bismarck and took the lead.
22:00 Bismarck inverted the course and tried to engage the Suffolk which realized the manoeuvre and avoided contact.
As of 23:30 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen entered into a snowstorm.
Saturday 24 May 1941 (The Battle of the Denmark Strait)
05:45 Sighted two ships at the horizon. Speed 28 knots.
05:52-05:53 British opened fire (Hood and Prince of Wales).
05:53 Prince of Wales fired both its forward turrets (A and B) at Bismarck.
ca. 05:54 Presumed hit on Bismarck (Prince of Wales).
05:55 Germans opened fire (Bismarck and Prinz Eugen). Fire concentrated on Hood.
ca. 05:56 Prinz Eugen scored a hit on Hood with the 4th salvo (near the hangar by the after mast): Fire near ammunition lift (port, aft). Fire spreads.
ca. 05:58 - 05:59 Hood fire quickly dies down. Lütjens commands (after 2nd or 3rd Bismarck salvo, after 5th (6th) Prinz Eugen salvo): Change target to left! (against Prince of Wales).
05:59 Prinz Eugen: Beginning of effective firing (after getting range). Observed effect: two hits, small fire. Distance about 16,000 meter. Use of heavy (10.5-cm) anti-aircraft guns (with decreasing distance).
06:00 Hood changed course by 20 degrees to port, to bring the after turrets (C, D) into action. Speed: about 28 knots. Distance from enemy: about 19,700 meter.
06:01 Bismarck's 5th full salvo. Hood blows up.
Hood crew: 95 officers and 1324 men. There were only three Hood survivors, who could be rescued after three hours by the British destroyer Electra:
1. Ordinary Seaman (Signal Corporal) A. Edward Briggs, later Lieutenant. Station: Compass deck, navigation bridge. Command messenger of Flag Lieutenant of Vice-Admiral Holland.
2. Midshipman William J. Dundas, later Lieutenant Commander. Station: Upper (enclosed) bridge, as Midshipman of Watch, under command of officer of Watch
3. Able Seaman (Senior Corporal) Robert E. Tilburn, later Admiralty Storeman. Station: Boat deck, service, port 10.2-cm anti-aircraft guns.
After 06:01 The Prince of Wales, moved in close starboard formation to Hood, turned hard around the Hood wreckage and rubble and moved off on southward course through the fog and black smoke of concentrated fire from Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.
As of 06:01 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen changed target. Distance about 14,800 meter.
06:02 Prince of Wales under concentrated fire of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, shooting well and fast (distance about 16,000 meter). Norfolk fires 3 salvos (Suffolk 6 in all?).
06:03 Prince of Wales took direct hit in the bridge and left the battlefield smoking heavily.
As of 06:03 Rear Admiral Walker took over further measures as Senior Commander.
Approx. 06:05 Prince of Wales fire near Bismarck. 20.3 cm shots from Norfolk.
Prince of Wales was hit by 7 shells):
4 (Bismarck) 38.0 cm, 3 (Prinz Eugen) 20.3 cm:
38.0-cm hit the bridge, 38.0 cm superstructures, forward medium artillery control post, 38.0 cm under the waterline near diesel generator room, 20.3 cm at waterline aft, ca. 500 tons of water, 20.3 cm at waterline aft in the ship, 20.3 cm in 13.2 cm shot loading room.
06:09 Germans ceased fire. Prinz Eugen received no hits. Bismarck was hit by 2 heavy and one light hits.
1. Sections XIII-XIV ' electric system out of commission. 4-boiler room port 2 makes water.
2. Forward sections XX-XXL: entered at port, exited starboard over armor deck. Oil cells hit: light port side damage (about 4000 tons of water in ship).
3. Hit through a boat (without importance). *
Effects:
a) Reduction of speed (top speed cut to 29 knots . . . water in ship forward
b) wide, clearly visible oil spill.
Ammunition consumption:
Bismarck: 93 38.0 cm
Prinz Eugen: 183 20.3 cm (Comparatively high, especially for Prinz Eugen).

* It is assumed that this hit caused that the compressed-air-line to the catapult was bent which means that
saving the Bismarck's War Diary failed. So in that way this hit had a significant importance as a lot of invaluable information was lost when the Bismarck sunk. The fact that the compressed-air-line to the catapult was bent was unknown to the crew of the Bismarck until 27 May between 06:00 and 07:00 when they tried to launch one of the ships Arado 196-A aircraft.
At noon New course 180º.
18:14 Turns 180º to starboard towards British pursuers, while the Prinz Eugen left the formation.
18:40-18:56 Bismarck fired some shells at Suffolk and Prince of Wales. 3 sailors were killed by blast and shell splinters of a near miss .
23:30-23:45 Attacked by 9 Swordfish and 6 Fulmars from carrier Victorious. Speed 27 knots. She was hit by one torpedo on the starboard side, amidships. Without importance.
Sunday 25 May 1941 (Fleet Chief's Birthday)
00:28 Bismarck reported attack by torpedo planes.
00:37 Bismarck reported: Expect further attacks.
01:53 Bismarck reported: Expect further attacks.
02:41 Group West reported: West U-boats have instructions to move eastward.
03:06 Bismarck turned to starboard and the Suffolk lost contact with her. New course 130º. British contact lost for 31.5 (thirty one and one-half) hours.
07:00 Bismarck reported: . . . one battleship, two heavy cruisers keeping contact again.
08:52-09:28 36-minute Bismarck radio message: homed in on by British stations.
11:25 Admiral Raeder radioed birthday greetings to Admiral Lütjens.
ca. 11:45 Aboard Bismarck: Lütjens speech plus that of the Commander (Captain Lindemann).
16:25 Hitler radioed birthday greetings to Admiral Lütjens.
23:44 Group West reported: Presumed continued course for west coast of France, even without enemy contact.
Monday 26 May 1941 (Bismarck is discovered and disabled)
10:30 Bismarck sighted by "Catalina" flying boat (Briggs) at 49º 20´ north, 21º 50´ west.
11:15 Ark Royal planes make contact. Then Sheffield too.
14:50-15:00 Ark Royal: Takeoff of 15 Swordfish's torpedo planes. Mistaken attack on Sheffield: Target confusion with Bismarck!
17:47 Bismarck sighted by Sheffield.
19:03 Bismarck reported: fuel situation urgent. When can I expect refueling?
19:48 U-556 reported: Battleship and Ark Royal in sight.
20:39 U-556 reported: Battleship and aircraft carrier on 115-degree course, high speed.
ca. 20:45 Bismarck reported: Torpedo planes from Ark Royal in sight.
20:55-21:25 Bismarck attacked by 15 Swordfish's from the carrier Ark Royal. There are no losses amongst the Swordfish aircraft. Bismarck was hit by two torpedoes. One in the center (port side), and one in the starboard rudder area. The rudder indicator indicated that the rudder was jammed either 12° or 15° to port. Additionally Bismarck was possibly hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, amidships. She is unable to maneuver.
21:03-21:05 Bismarck hit aft (rudder system). Bismarck reported: Unable to maneuver at ca. 47 degrees 40 minutes north-14 degrees 50 minutes west.
21:15 Bismarck reported: Square BE-6192. Torpedo hit aft!
21:30-21:55 Fired a few salvos against the Sheffield. No hits scored.
22:38 Polish destroyer Piorun sighted Bismarck and came under fire.
23:15 Bismarck changes course from southeast to northwest.
23:24 Captain Vian organized his 5 destroyers (Cossack, Maori, Piorun, Sikh, Zulu) for the planned (and also carried out) night attack on Bismarck, but came immediately under fire from Bismarck.
23:40 Bismarck reported: Ship unable to maneuver. We'll fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer.
23:58 Bismarck reported: to the Führer of the German Reich Adolf Hitler. We'll fight to the last in trust in you, our Führer, and in rock-hard trust in Germany's victory.
Tuesday 27 May 1941 (The Last Battle)
01:53 Hitler radioed Lütjens, Bismarck: I thank you in the name of all the German people. Adolf Hitler. To crew of battleship Bismarck: all Germany is with you. Whatever can still be done, will be done. Your devotion to duty will strengthen our people in their fight for existence. Adolf Hitler.
02:21 Bismarck reported: Recommend conferring of Knight's Cross on Corvette Captain Schneider for sinking of Hood.
03:51 Radio message to Bismarck A(rtillery) O(fficer) Corvette Captain Schneider: The Führer has conferred the Knight's Cross on you for the sinking of the Battleship Hood. Heartiest good wishes. Commander of the Navy, Grand Admiral Raeder.
Between 05:00 and 06:00 Two attempts was made to launch one of the ships Arado 196-A aircraft. It failed as the compressed-air-line to the catapult was bent.
07:10 Last message from Bismarck (Admiral Lütjens): "Send a U-boat to save War Diary" (KTB).
ca. 08:00 Alarm on Bismarck, which was surrounded by the two British battleships King George V (C-in-C Flagship) and Rodney plus two cruisers Dorsetshire and Norfolk. Weather: northwest wind (320 degrees) 6-7. Sea: 4-5. Visibility tip to 10 nautical miles.
08:15 Bismarck sighted by Norfolk.
08:43 Bismarck sighted by King George V and Rodney.
08:47 The final battle began. Rodney opened fire.
08:48 King George V opened fire
08:49 Bismarck opened fire at Rodney.
ca. 09:02 Bismarck was hit for the first time, and starts to receive hits from all sides. Turrets A (Anton) and B (Bruno) went out of action.
ca. 09:04 Dorsetshire opened fire.
ca. 09:12 Bismarck's forward command post went out of action.
09:13 The Bismarck's after command post went out of action.
09:31 Bismarck fired her last salvo.
09:12 - 10:16 Bismarck received multiple hits at point blank range between 2,500 meter (2,700 yards) and 4,000 meters (4,400 yards), but was still afloat.
ca. 10:00 All weapons silent on Bismarck. The ship was a wreck.
Sometime about 10:00 Demolition charges exploded in the turbine room on Bismarck.
10:20 Bismarck was hit on the starboard side by two torpedoes fired by Dorsetshire.
10:36 Bismarck was hit on the port side by a third torpedo fired by Dorsetshire.
10:39 Bismarck sinks at 48º 10´ north, 16º 12´ west.
The Discovery of the Bismarck
8 June 1989 The wreck of the Bismarck was discovered at a depth of about 4,850 meters by Robert Ballard. The man that also found RMS Titanic.


© John Asmussen, 2000 - 2013. All rights reserved.